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Internet agency considers domain name to organize contacts

NEW YORK — Reaching out and touching someone used to be as simple as dialing a string of numbers.

But now there are home, cell and work phone numbers from which to choose, and sometimes work extensions to remember. There are also e-mail addresses — at home and at work — and instant messaging handles, perhaps separate ones for the various services, some of which now do voice and video besides text.

Some people even have Web pages — through their employer or Internet service provider, or perhaps a profile or two on MySpace.

To help people manage all their contact information online, the Internet’s key oversight agency is considering a “.tel” domain name. If approved, the domain could be available this year.

As proposed, individuals could use a “.tel” Web site to provide the latest contact information and perhaps even let friends initiate a call or send a text message directly from the site. Businesses could use a “.tel” site to determine customers’ locations and route them automatically to the correct call center.

Its proponents also envision “.tel” as a place from which the various people-finding services on the Internet could pull the latest contact information as individuals move about. Now, data typically come from third-party sources like phone listings, which may be old or incomplete, particularly if an entire household is listed under one name.

And telephony applications and devices yet to be built could one day make use of such data, especially as wireless and wireline networks converge, according to London-based Telnic Ltd., which proposed and would run the domain if it is approved.

There’s nothing inherent in “.tel” that would enable these features; rather, its aim is to create a place to which people would know to go to find contact information.